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Mistress of the Dandelion Dragons
By Christine Stoddard
Tell us a bit about this sweet, funny creature. What inspired you to create him? And how did you make him--magic?
This is a Dandelion Dragon, so named because of the pale ruff around his neck. Small but venerable, he lives a peaceful life contemplating nature. Despite his age he is very curious and uses his long neck to peer about him.
A lot of my inspiration comes from nature and the things I see when out walking: roots, branches and rocks form interesting shapes that make me think of creatures and I end up wanting to create them. For example, there are trees at Petworth Park that are wonderfully knobbly and seem to have features, and another with a broken branch that looks just like a dragon. I love the sinuous shape of dragons and I wanted to make one that seemed thoughtful and curious rather than fierce.
The Dandelion Dragon is crocheted in the round (rather than flat, like a blanket), a method that is often called amigurumi. It allows me to shape the creature as I go, rather than having to plan everything in advance as I would have to if I was making plushies with fabric. I still draw out an idea of what I want to make, but it often changes depending on how it looks while I'm working on it. I like to use textured yarns - this dragon has a novelty 'furry' yarn for his ruff and a mohair yarn along his back and tail.
How long have you been making such fantastical beasts? What are other examples of plushies you create? Do you have a favorite?
Having learned to crochet as a child I found out that I could use this skill to make little toys about five years ago. After I'd become reasonably proficient, one of the first things I designed and made was a dragon. After that I made things intermittently, for my children or for craft swaps; these were often fantastical creatures since it's usually impossible to buy such things in a shop. I gradually started to make things just because I felt like it, and as I experimented more with shapes and ideas I worked out the kind of creatures that I really wanted to make. I started selling them last year, otherwise my house would be even more stuffed than it already is!
I like to create what I call spirits, creatures which generally represent a part of the natural world, and sprites, which are unspecific magical creatures somewhat like fairies, trolls or gnomes. Sometimes I make fantastical animals, either recognisable, like dragons, or completely original, like my Yubbla.
I think my favourites are the Mother and Child Earth Spirits, the Rock Spirit and the Tree Sprite, which are all my own designs, and the Elephas Minimus Paluster (or Marsh Elephant Snail), inspired by an illustration by Patrick Woodroffe
Are you involved in other arts and crafts? What specifically appeals to you about working with needles and fabrics?
I've always been very crafty and enjoyed making things, but having become obsessed with crochet, it's what I enjoy best. I love working with yarn, seeing a single thread turn into a three-dimensional creature using only a hook is quite a magical process.
How else do you pay tribute to the genres of fairytales, fantasy, and/or magical realism? What do you like about fairytale culture?
I have loved all kinds of fairytales, folk tales and fantasy since I was little and nothing has changed as I've grown older. In fact, as I have two young boys, I love inspiring their imagination by reading them all my favourite stories and introducing them to imaginative films. Some of my favourite authors are Tove Jansson (the Moomin stories), Diana Wynne Jones, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint; and I love the films of Hayao Miyazaki and the work of Jim Henson such as Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and The Storyteller series.
Where can our lovely Quail Bell readers purchase your little ones?
At my Etsy shop - Lucyravenscar Crochet Creatures (http://www.lucyravenscar.etsy.com). Most of what I make is one of a kind, although I will take commissions.
Any last words?
I think magic exists where nature and our imagination collide.